Three years ago, when the UNDP published its Gender-related Development Index for 2011, the UAE was ranked 38th among 187 countries for its impressive achievements in the empowerment of women.
Two major indicators of this progress are education and employment. The 2005 census indicated that the literacy level in young girls and women aged between 15 and 24 outpaced that of the contemporary male group. Also, a whopping 95 per cent who had finished their schooling opted for higher studies while 70 per cent of university graduates in the UAE were women.
With the UAE being one of the most liberal states in the region and women allowed indeed, encouraged to take part in various spheres of activities, 55 per cent of Emirati women between 25 and 34 are employed, according to a survey, while 14,000 run nearly 20,000 businesses. Moreover, the UAE is regarded as one of the safest places on Earth for women and each year draws hundreds of expatriates from across the globe, who take up both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
“Now the decision by the Sharjah Executive Council to grant 60 days’ maternity leave to expatriate mothers working in the emirate will add another feather in the UAE’s cap. Earlier, only Emirati women were allowed 60 days’ maternity leave while expatriates enjoyed 45 days. Now the decision to extend the same advantage to all working mothers in Sharjah enhances the image of the UAE as a liberal and fair destination,” Khaleej Times commented in its today’s editorial.
Expatriate fathers will also benefit from the liberal gesture with the Sharjah Executive Council’s decision that male employees would be entitled to three days’ paternity leave with pay. “Besides a sign of the progressiveness of the UAE leadership, it is also a tribute to expatriates who have been happy to contribute to the national development,” the paper further stated. The gesture comes three years after a presidential decree gave a major right, allowing children born to Emirati women with non-Emirati husbands to seek UAE citizenship.
In the future, women in the UAE can look forward to more state means to ensure their welfare and protect their rights as the UAE implements the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women. Jointly undertaken with the UNDP, Unifem, government agencies and NGOs, the strategy will seek women’s empowerment in eight sectors. They include education, health, the economy, the environment and decision-making.